Teaching new workers to manage money wisely

The Newfoundland and Labrador Laubach Literacy Council in Corner Brook, NL helps students raise their literacy levels and achieve their goals in ever-changing environments. One way the organization does this is through programming, such as the Essential Employability Skills –Health Sector program.

Essential Employability Skills – Health Sector is a pilot project for innovative literacy and essential employability skills training, designed to address labour market and workforce challenges that employers face in the health sector in Atlantic Canada.

The program aims to help students gain the necessary skills to be able to work in entry-level healthcare roles, such as a Personal Support Worker in a care home. The project is carried out in collaboration with sector employers and stakeholders and is led by the Literacy Coalition New Brunswick (LCNB) in partnership with Newfoundland and Labrador Laubach Literacy Council (NLLLC) and Prince Edward Island Literacy Alliance (PEILA). The program is funded by the Government of Canada’s Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program.

As part of the program, learners take part in 10-week online classes on various employability skills before attending a six-week work placement. Program coordinator Jennifer Brake was eager to integrate financial literacy training alongside employability skills.

“We really wanted to be able to integrate real-life skills into the program, so instead of doing basic math within the numeracy section of the curriculum, we decided to do financial literacy,” says Brake. “Some of our students have been on income support for 15 years, and now that they’re going to be making a lot more money than they’re used to, we need to teach them how to manage that money properly.”

Brake turned to Money Matters, an introductory financial literacy program for adult learners, offered by ABC Life Literacy Canada’s Activate Learning program. Money Matters provides ready-to-use curriculum on multiple topics as well as the ability to bring in a TD Bank volunteer tutor.

“The TD volunteer we had was so good! He was knowledgeable but also stayed at everyone’s level. He didn’t use big words and he just spoke to everyone in a way that they could understand it and not walk away being confused.”

Money Matters covers topics such as saving and borrowing, but it was the Smart Shopping workshop that intrigued Brake. In this workshop, learners discuss reasons why we shop, how to think about shopping habits, how to save money with comparison shopping, and ways to make smart buying decisions.

Brake says the program offered a lot of really practical advice, such as how to compare prices and read signs.

“Sometimes a sign might say $4.99 and you think that’s a great deal but it actually says $4.99 per pound, which makes it a lot more expensive depending on the weight of it. It’s helpful to be able to understand that when you’re comparing prices, it’s not always apples to apples. Sometimes something might look cheaper but it’s actually more expensive when you compare the sizes or quantities.”

Brake says the group really enjoyed discussing ways to save money, and they learned a lot from each other during this discussion. The lessons on financial literacy have also translated into real-life success stories.

“One of my students came off income support for the first time in 17 years, and her goal was to buy herself a car – and she did it! She followed a lot of the information that she learned in the program, she looked for more things on sale so she could save more, and she ended up doing it – she bought a car for herself.”

For other students, the course was an eye-opener on existing shopping habits. Brake says one student really opened her eyes when talking about online shopping.

“Due to COVID-19 a lot of people were spending a lot more time at home, and as a result, they were spending more time on their phone shopping online. Talking about this brought attention to the fact that you can waste a lot of money and overspend when you shop online.”

After the online learning component, participants were put into a six-week work placement. With such a demand for healthcare workers, particularly in seniors’ homes, the students were welcomed into roles and many of them were hired full-time. With these learners now receiving a steady income, they now have the skills to manage their income wisely.

“Like anybody, when you get more money coming in, it’s easy to go and just buy things,” Brake says. “When you’re not used to having money or a budget, it’s easy to overspend. Then you end up stuck in the same situation as before of not having any money. It’s a vicious cycle.”

To learn more about Money Matters or to bring a workshop to your community, visit www.abcmoneymatters.ca.